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VOLUME V winter 2002 NUMBER 4
Bullet Holes and Dark-Eyed Daughters
Marcus Rempel Grain of Wheat
Two brown-faced, black- haired girls, sitting on a bed, bullet-holes in the wall behind them, their beautiful dark eyes looking into the camera with a look of wariness beyond their years: this is the image that will not leave me after seeing pic- tures and hearing stories of Matt Schaaf ’s experiences in Barrancabermeja, Colombia as a CPT corps member. The bullets passed just above the girls’ bed during yet another visit from Colombia’s paramilitaries, state armed forces or guerillas (which group it was that night is hard for me to recall) coming to send a “message” to villagers suspected of collaborating with the other side. I can’t imagine looking into the lovely dark eyes of Johanna and Sophia, my two blond-haired, fair-faced daughters after such a night.
As our church group watched slides and heard Schaaf ’s commentary in our darkened sanctuary one recent Friday evening, we came to learn that our connection to the vio- lence in Colombia is not only as people who can identify
with a Colombian family’s desperately wanting to keep their daughters from harm. We are tied to that situation not only by emotion, but by economics. Our families in Winnipeg are participants in a global economic system that requires the terror of those two little girls in Bar- rancabermeja.
“The war in Colombia is not really the War on Drugs,” Schaaf reports after one and a half years of active service in Colombia. “It’s a war to open up investment opportu- nities.” As CPT has witnessed and analyzed the conflict since establishing a presence in Colombia in 1999, it has come to perceive that the paramilitary and state armed
Bullet Holes cont on p. 15
Taken by Violence, Led to Joy
Rich Foss Plow Creek Fellowship
In the summer of 1988 I wrote a series of disturbing poems about a man being gelded in prison. I was puzzled by the poems, sensing that they echoed a personal experi- ence. I knew that I sometimes struggled with feeling like a real man but I thought that was probably normal for someone who become disabled with rheumatoid arthritis at age seventeen as I had. Maybe my psyche had interpreted becoming disabled as similar to being castrated. I didn’t think so but I didn’t know.
When you write a series of poems about a man who has been gelded you have a need to talk to someone and at the same time you don’t want to touch the implications of such a taboo subject with a ten-foot pole.
About that same time I sensed the Lord telling me that my next retreat needed to be a guided retreat. Several months later two friends from Reba Place Fellowship, Virgil Vogt and Anne Stewart, agreed to guide me on a two-day retreat.
I didn’t know what one was supposed to do on a guided retreat; it felt like a journey naked into the land of uncertainty. I spent most of the retreat in a semi-state of misery, meditating on scripture and writing, what seemed to me, to be a mishmash of things in my journal.
On the first morning I met with them I read the poems that had been haunting me
Contents Book Review ..................................... 16 Bullet Holes and Dark-Eyed Daughters ........................................... 1 Church News ...................................... 6 Getting Acquainted............................. 8 On Pilgrimage..................................... 4 Poetry.................................................. 3 Something Is Coming ....................... 11 Taken by Violence, Led to Joy ............. 2
since the pre- vious summer. I explained that although I had neither been in prison nor castrated, the poems rang pain- fully true to me. I shared a bit about the rest of my life and then they prayed for me.
The next morning I had sched- uled an end- o f - r e t r e a t meeting with my retreat guides. What was I going to say? During the retreat I recalled an event from my twenty-first year when I had to have total hip replacement surgery. The night before a young orderly showed up in my room and apologetically told me he needed to shave me. I expected him to shave my hip. Gradu- ally as he worked I realized he was going to shave my entire groin. I lay helplessly as he worked me over with the razor, too ashamed to say or do anything but submit. I had only told Sarah, my wife, and a couple of close friends about this humiliating experience. The orderly had acted apologetic when he said he had to shave me so I know he wasn’t trying to be malicious. He simply did not realize that, without explaining the extent of the procedure and giving me a choice, he was taking me by violence.
Eventually I began to reconstruct the
scene and this time I imagined Jesus
in the scene as well as the orderly.
Fifteen years later that story was the only thing I could think of telling my retreat guides in our meeting. As I began to tell them the story I started to sob. When I finally finished the story I sobbed out, “And when that happened I thought there wasn’t a
S H A L O M C O N N E C T I O N S
thing that couldn’t be taken from me.” They sat quietly with me as I cried what
seemed like a river of tears. Finally Anne said, “I’ve known that you’ve struggled with feeling like a man and I wondered where that came from. When women are raped they often say, ‘I don’t feel like a woman.’”
She paused while I absorbed her words. Finally she said, “Richard, I think you are going to have to give that orderly permission to shave you.” Her words, though strange on the surface, immediately made sense to me.
“Jesus taught us that we always have a choice,” Virgil said. “When he said, ‘If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek’ he knew that although we have no choice about being hit the first time we still have a choice. We can choose to turn the other cheek.”
I went home from the retreat and began to write in my journal. At first I poured out my rage at having to lay there, submitting helplessly as it slowly dawned on me that he was going to totally shave me. Eventually I began to reconstruct the scene and this time I imagined Jesus in the scene as well as the orderly. Over several days I wrote out the scene and dialogued with Jesus each step of the way, choosing to allow the orderly to proceed. When I imagined the procedure complete, suddenly, to my surprise, I had a sense of Jesus wrapping me in a blanket like a newborn baby, telling me that he was giving me new life as a man. I felt this incredible surge of joy that lasted for a few weeks.
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S H A L O M C O N N E C T I O N S2 W I N T
Shalom Connections Shalom Connections seeks to glorify God and pro- vide a means of fellowship and inspiration among sisters and brothers of the member churches of Shalom Mission Communities, and the wider network of intentional Christian communi- ties. Shalom Connections is published quarterly in March, June, September and December by Church of the Sojourners, 866 Potrero Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110-2841. Subscriptions are free. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the official position of Shalom Connections, Church of the Sojourners, Shalom Mission Communities, or its member churches. Postmaster: send address changes to the Publish- ing Office address, below. Non-profit standard mail postage paid at San Francisco, CA 94188.
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Poetry Phillip Bridgewater Hope Fellowship
Reflections on Matthew 11:12
Go, go and tell Johnny Johnny B. good things are happening When the greatest born of woman Stirred the nest, made Serpents shed their skins A revelation of repentance Fruits of forgiveness Camel hair clothed Locust fed Milk and honey hopes Restored in the river Only to drown your cousin and Raise him to the descending dove And even as the First became last They would not stand Words warning Silence the voice of the wilderness Swords drawn to divide and Conquer a cause they know not what As the messenger, much more the Message shall be Bound and gagged Forced far from Eager ears Longing to hear the Inevitable Prepare the way of the Lord
John Donne, 1615
Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you A